Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author readings vs signings

Just recently I did both a reading and a bookstore signing of my book, Roll Up the Streets. I’ve been giving it some thought as to which is better for an author to do.
I think most people would assume, and I always have, that a reading is better than a signing. You get to sit down with a group of interested listeners, read a couple of chapters—I did a bit of acting with props and a squeaky voice I worked on, don’t ask why I gave my villain a squeaky voice—interact with the audience and actually see and hear their reaction to your story.
My reading at the Tinman Too bookstore went very well and I got to hear the laughs in person. That’s always rewarding for any writer used to working in isolation. I also spoke with a couple of 11-year olds, my core audience, both of whom wanted to be writers. So as well as being entertaining, I could also encourage future writers. I also managed to sell a few books. All in all it was as good of an experience as I expected.

The signing was a bit different, and I was uncertain what to expect. Like everyone I’d heard stories, and actually seen, authors sitting alone behind a pile of their unsold books, looking bored, while shoppers walked by desperately avoiding eye contact. The bookstore I signed at, Aunties in Spokane, Washington, even put my signing table in front of the psychology section in case I needed to consult books on coping with depression.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The signing went for two hours, and although there were lulls, none were so long as to make me feel like I’d been abandoned. My table was placed in a spot everyone who entered the store passed by, without being directly in the entrance. It was also Librarian and Teacher appreciation day, and I talked to a number of librarians who promised to put Roll Up the Streets into their middle school libraries. Without this special event the signing probably would not have gone as well. But for this first experience of both a reading and a signing I sold out the bookstores’ supply of Roll Up the Streets, so I have to consider both a success.

As I was about to close up shop at the signing, I met a man who spends his retirement years photographing artists and writers for free. While he took my picture, he talked about how he thought signings were actually better for getting to talk to people because you get to spend some one-on-one time with each person who asks for an autograph. And as he put it, while you’re writing that dedication and your name, you’re thinking only of that for the moment, and leaving a record of it behind. That’s a nice thought.

I suppose if you’re doing a reading to a big audience the one-on-one interaction might be hard to work in. But my experience reading was with a small group of people who asked questions and with whom I spoke individually. So for me, at least this time, the reading was more fun, but the signing was a pretty close second.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Roll Up the Streets! Book reading

Stop by and see my book reading of Roll Up the Streets!

Saturday, Oct. 9, 1:00 pm. Tinman Too Chidren's Book Store.
809 W. Garland Ave. Spokane, Wa.
For more info call the Tinman Too Bookstore:
(509) 325-3001
Or email:
Directions: Map

Monday, October 4, 2010

SCBWI Conference

For those of you who don't know, SCBWI is the tongue-twisting acronym for Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators. It's a professional organization for writers and illustrators, and would-be writers and illustrators, all looking to make contacts, improve their skills, and generally be better at their craft. SCBWI holds a yearly conference during the summer in Los Angeles, where the headquarters are, and regional conferences all over the country and world during the whole year.

This past weekend I had a great time attending the regional conference in Spokane, Wa, my home region. If you're serious about writing you should consider attending some kind of conference. The guest speakers are usually other writers or illustrators, and editors and agents who are available to also do critiques for the attendees. This is a good way see how you writing looks to someone from the biz and not just your spouse or even critique group. It's also a good way to make contacts. I met my agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton of Andrea Brown Lit. at the regional conference two years ago, so it's well worth the effort to get to one.

I suggest if you are going, check out the speakers beforehand, find out what they write or the kinds of work they represent, and taylor your conference attendence accordingly. If you find a conference with an agent who just loves your style of writing and reprpesents the genre you work in, it just may help you to go and get some face-time. That's why it's also important to get an idea of who's who in the industry, so when they do show up, you know enough to make the right connection. The more you know about publishing, the better your chances. Of course you still have to be able to write, or illustrate, but know where and who to sell to puts you that much further ahead.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I love being interviewed! So check out this one by D.L.Kingwriter. I answer all of your questions, or hers actually, and only make up a few things.

Book Readings

Book readings are the best way to see the reaction of an audience to your work, especially for a children's writer. Reading to a critique group of adults is great for the writing process, and scanning a review once in awhile, well, that's a mixed bag. Too many reviews are much too brief to be of any help. But reading to a group of kids can tell you a lot about how your intended readers will respond to your story.

I wrote my book, Roll Up the Streets! while reading it a chapter at a time to fifth graders at Holmes elementary school in Spokane, Wa. Every Friday I'd sit down over lunch and read a new chapter while watching the kids chomp on whatever horrifying public school lunch was offered that day. The whole idea of centering my story around evil corndogs came from those lunch readings as well as half the gross passages in the book. I owe a lot to those kids.

I'm holding a book reading on Oct. 9 at the Tinman Too childrens bookstore in Spokane on Oct. 9. It's the first one where I'll actually be able to read from the published book, and not just a handful of papers in my lap. I'm crossing my fingers, and hoping it will be as rewarding as those trips to Holmes.

So when you read in public, don't just read. Watch too. You might just pick up a few gross, disgusting tidbits to brightening up your writing.